Gardening in Mexico is extraordinary– anytime of year is spring and time for planting!
When Max and I first moved here, I admired a new Mexican friend’s giant red-fruited chili tree. He promised to give me a cutting when, as he described it, “It has childrens.”
Several weeks later, he brought over a little plant, no bigger than his thumb.
Less than enthusiastic, I said, looking at the tiny plant, “Oh, thank you.” I was used to saplings taking years to develop.
In the ten years we’ve lived here, I’ve had to cut back that thumb-sized plant dozens of times because it was blocking the door to my studio.
With this thumb-sized sapling, came a bonus. A thin, pinkie-sized blade, purple on one side, green on the other. I planted the sapling but kept the blade in the pot and in a few months, it was bursting out, so I planted it in the ground, too. Now Enrique, my gardener, has to hack the leaves back every month. And they are reseeding themselves everywhere – long, elegant spears with white flowers called palomitas (popcorn.)
I planted a ficus tree in a large talavera pot on the terraza where the sun shone on it through mosquito screens. It spent two listless years on the terraza gathering dust. I felt sorry for it and thought that open air and rainfall might give it the boost it needed. In the two years it’s been outside, it broke through the large pot and rooted in the ground. It is almost as tall as the terraza and now is the major shade tree in the garden since the large palmetto had to come down because it was dropping branches with alligator-like teeth into the neighbor’s garden.
My favorite plants are the cactuses. They look like carvings, their lace-like needles and fuzz deceptively prickly.
My favorite plants are the cactuses. They look like carvings, their lace-like needles and fuzz deceptively prickly. They ask for little water or care, and are full of marvelous surprises.
When I started my garden, I planted an agave. It was about a foot tall. In two years, it looked like a major six-foot blue-green sculpture. Underneath it had many “childrens.” I guess I could have distilled tequila from it but it is easier to buy it in a bottle. The agave had to come down, too, since it spread sideways as well as up and had sharp, pointy edges.
The two cactuses I planted side by side are called “Queen of the Night.” They bloom and glow by moonlight showing off white and yellow flowers with lots of bees busy in the sweet centers. Each fist-sized blossom lasts for only one night, wither and die by late morning, but last long enough for me to admire while drinking my first cup of tea. They bloomed twice last year with many flowers. But I think this year, the ficus shades them too much and they might not give me their gifts.
There’s also Barrel Cactus, Desert Rose, Key Lime Pie, Blushing Beauty, Sunburst, Fairy Castle, Aloe Medicine Plant and Old Man of Mexico. They are as amazing as their names.
When Enrique trims the lime trees into a barrel shape, the cut branches fill the air with citrus perfume and the fruit tastes sour and tingly in margaritas.
My house cleaner gave me a Philodendron that has since overtaken the garden walls. Roots spread into every rock and cranny and smell like carrots when cut. Leaves near the bottom are saucer-sized and as big as turkey platters near the top.
Brilliant salmon-colored and fuchsia bougainvillea drape over the walls.
Geckos run through the plants like tiny three-inch dinosaurs and make sharp barking noises ten times the volume of their size. Other visitors include red and orange orioles, hummingbirds whirring around the yellow-flowered vine clinging to the stone wall of the bodega where I keep gardening tools. Squawking small green parrots, wings flapping frantically, fly overhead.
The hot day winds down and I take off my straw hat. The first cool evening breeze ruffles my hair. The fountain splashes into the pool. I shed my gardening gloves. The weeds have been pulled. The leaves trimmed back.
I relax into its beauty. All’s right with the world.
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